Are Cavities After Braces Common?

Couple concerned about cavities after braces.

Everyone knows that orthodontic treatment is the best way to create a perfectly straight smile. But orthodontic treatment doesn’t just improve your smile—it boosts your oral health as well. 

Studies show that those who have undergone orthodontic treatment often have better oral health compared to those who have not. Why, exactly? Perfectly aligned teeth are much easier to clean than overlapping teeth. Consequently, daily oral care actions like brushing and flossing are more effective when performed on a perfectly straight set of teeth, thereby leading to lower rates of:

  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease
  • Bone disease

In addition to these physical benefits, a recent study also found that orthodontic patients experience mental health benefits following treatment as well. 

At the same time, you may have heard that patients frequently develop cavities after braces come off or that braces fuel cavity development. If you’ve heard these rumors, the Beverly Hills Orthodontics team is here to clear up any confusion on the topic. Here’s what you need to know about the relationship between braces and cavities:

“What’s a Cavity, Again?”

Since we were children, we’ve all been told to avoid cavities with regular brushing and flossing. Of course, it’s probably been a while since you last had to think about what a cavity actually is, so let’s review some cavity basics.

Also known as "dental caries" or simply “tooth decay,” dental cavities are areas on teeth that have become damaged due to bacterial acid. Bacteria is always present in your mouth, feeding off of the sugar in the food and drink that you can consume. When bacteria consume matter, they naturally release acid as a byproduct. Fortunately, as long as you maintain a proper oral care routine (i.e. twice-daily brushing, once-daily flossing, etc.), bacteria presence is not a major issue. 

However, when you stop brushing and flossing properly, bacteria reproduce to unhealthy levels and form a large layer of plaque on your teeth. With plaque comes more bacteria and more acid, and over time, will lead to tooth decay and cavities. 

If cavities go untreated, it can lead to a number of related health issues, including:

  • Severe pain
  • Dental abscesses
  • Gum disease
  • Permanent tooth damage

Now that we've reviewed what cavities are, we can more effectively review how braces can affect cavity development:

Cavities After Braces: What You Should Know

Although orthodontic treatment does provide patients with a lifetime of better oral health, braces do unfortunately put patients at a higher risk of developing cavities during treatment. There are a few reasons why, but the most obvious factor is simple: braces physically get in the way of oral care. 

If you have braces, you already know how much more time-consuming flossing can be during treatment. What was once a 4-5 minute daily routine becomes much longer when you introduce wires and brackets. Brushing also becomes more difficult, as more time and effort are required to remove the debris from your braces and fully clean each tooth. 

Without vigilant oral care, orthodontic patients run the risk of letting plaque run wild to the point that cavities can form. 

Thankfully, just because you are wearing braces does not mean that you will end up with a mouth full of cavities. Every year, countless patients successfully complete their treatment without any cavities or other oral health issues. To help ensure that your teeth stay healthy as you wear braces, we recommend the following practices:

  1. Use an Automatic Toothbrush: Studies show that automatic toothbrushes are significantly more effective at removing plaque than manual toothbrushes. During treatment, an automatic toothbrush will help you more effectively clean your teeth and keep cavities at bay.
  2. Focus on Fully Cleaning Each Bracket when Brushing: Plaque tends to accumulate around the brackets of braces. To stop plaque from building up, make sure to brush above, below, and in between every bracket. For extra help doing this, you can buy an oscillating brush head specifically built for cleaning brackets.
  3. Experiment with Dental Floss Alternatives: When you have braces, flossing becomes much more complicated. Fortunately, there are alternative products on the market that make flossing easier during treatment. Thread floss and water flossers, in particular, are popular amongst orthodontic patients with braces.
  4. Use Fluoridated Mouthwash Daily: Fluoride is key to keeping teeth healthy and resilient against cavities. By introducing mouthwash into your daily oral care routine, you can help fortify your teeth against the threat of cavities.

Invisalign: A Healthier Orthodontic Option

For those concerned about how braces affect oral health, there is another option available—Invisalign. The most popular clear aligner treatment available today, Invisalign utilizes custom-made aligner trays to move patients’ teeth. Invisalign trays are completely removable, which provides patients with numerous benefits, including an undisturbed oral care routine. 

While brackets and wires will naturally complicate oral care, removable aligners enable patients to brush and floss as they always have. As such, Invisalign patients don’t face a heightened risk of developing cavities. If you think Invisalign may be right for you, schedule an appointment with Beverly Hills Orthodontics to discover if you qualify for treatment. 

Looking for an Expert Orthodontist that Will Keep Your Teeth Healthy Throughout Treatment? Call BHO Today

After spending months undergoing orthodontic treatment, the last thing you want to do is discover a mound of cavities after the braces come off. That’s why it’s important to partner with an orthodontist that you know will have your health in mind from the moment treatment starts. 

At Beverly Hills Orthodontics, our team is dedicated to creating the best patient experience possible. That means: